Thursday, December 29, 2011

Late Night Thoughts

Here I am, 11 pm, laying in bed, listening to the rain pound on the window mixed with my cat purring, trying to fall asleep, avoiding writing what's obviously been in the back of my mind for a while. The same picture keeps popping into my head, the stand of green pottery at a gift shop I visited yesterday. A vase that would look so homey and beautiful with a bunch of daffodils in it.

I swear, I passed by that same vase at least 4 times. It called out to me. The more I studied it, the more I thought about each individual motion the maker performed to make this fascinating object. The ball of clay being turned into the shape of a vase, the strokes to scribe the markings, the brush adding a tinge of green to the top and bottom, the final look when it is completed. Did the maker take a second to admire their work? Or did they just push it aside quickly like an assembly line?

I'm finding the more I'm delving into jewelry making, the more I'm beginning to appreciate art, in it's many forms. I've never been able to understand art and it's purpose, but I'm slowly beginning to "get" it. It's a healing process. It's a way to feel satisfied. It's a way to make yourself feel like you matter, like you can contribute something to this world, even something as small as a pair of earrings.

I'm also beginning to realize why I'm so drawn to cooking and wanting to own my own bakery and restaurant. I want a job that I love, of course, but most of all I want a job that makes me feel physically and mentally tired at the end of each day, but makes me feel satisfied. As thankful I am that I have the job I have now, it only makes me mentally tired, and I hardly ever feel satisfied. I always relied on coming home and cooking to fill that void. It's doing a rather good job, but there is still that void. I can't fix it right now, but at least I'm beginning to understand what the void is and how to fill it.

I cooked today for the first time in a few weeks and it was normalcy. I was frazzled and rather worn down when I began, especially after visiting my grandpa in the hospital (he fell a few days ago and is still recovering) and also waiting for a phone call back from a friend. I began to cook, and all my troubles seemed to slowly melt. I didn't feel as stressed. I was much calmer and I felt more in control. The more I cooked, the better I felt. Both dishes I made turned out delicious (I will definitely share!) and have inspired me to cook more.

I realize that I've been rambling, all while the wind is picking up outside and it's raining harder now. I needed to get these things out, somewhere, anywhere, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to sleep. Now my mind can rest.

But first, maybe I'll go bake a cake.

And next time I'm at that gift shop, I'm buying that vase.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Goals for 2012 (or more affectionately known as New Year's Resolutions)

So I thought I'd get a jump on y'all by posting my resolutions early. Well, to tell you the truth a bunch popped in my head that I want to write down. And really, these are more like goals of things I want to complete in 2012, so it's not really a new year's resolutions list, but I digress.

1. Be present. I would like to continue my journey of learning how to live in the present and not get stuck in the past or think too much about the future. I'm learning how to enjoy each moment before it passes me by and I would really like to continue that. (Due date: end of December)

2. Learn more about emotional intelligence. I started this year reading a few books on the subject, and how the brain functions in relation to our emotions and feelings and I would like to finish these books rather soon. (end of March)

3. Actually start executing my lists. I'm a list maker, and I have several lists of things to do, to cook, to see, etc. that I have been compiling for a few years now and I think this is the year to actually get started crossing things off. Granted, a few of them are rather long and will take a few years, so I'm going to make a goal of getting at least 1/10th of each list completed. I know it doesn't seem like much, but some of my lists have 2000+ items.. so a goal of 200 is pretty out there. (end of December)

4. Get a hold of my stomach issues. I have food allergies (dairy and eggs) and I tend to ignore them quite often and end up paying the price. It's really starting to bother me because during the day I have all these ideas of what to make for dinner, and then my stomach gets upset and I don't want to cook anymore. And then the next day I berate myself to no end. So my goal is to reduce the amount of dairy I eat per day to less than 1/4 c. and reduce the amount of egg-laced food to as close as zero as possible. (end of June)

5. Challenge my creativity as a cook. I noticed that most of my cookbooks are newer and therefore have recipes that I like as is. I've been looking through a lot of older cookbooks lately (90s and older), and a lot of them have inspired me to change the recipe around so it fits my tastes and more current tastes, also. I'm also doing a project where I take a lot of recipes that have a ton of processed foods (Velveeta, Cool Whip, Jello, Miracle Whip, etc.) and rework the recipe to eliminate the processed food while achieving close to the same result (as in not completely change the recipe. If you can keep almost the whole name and it still applies, then it works). It's a lot more challenging than one would expect. (Get started by end of March, complete at least 50 recipes by end of December)

6. Take more pictures! I have neglected bringing my camera with me on trips this year and I really have regretted that. So next year, I'm lugging that piece with me everywhere! I'm determined to improve my photography. (due January 1st! )

7. Try 3 new activities and stick with them. And by activites, I mean physical activities, like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, biking, etc. (Well, I'm going to try those 3, but who know if they will stick!). I'd also like to get into better shape so I can do more challenging hikes this summer. Who knew that I would actually want to train for hiking, when hiking was originally a way to train for skiing? Ironic, eh? (due end of June)

8. Practice meditation everyday for at least 10 min. Oh! And learn the art of a cat nap. (end of March)

9. Finish scanning magazines. I have a bazillion that I just can't seem to part with unless I scan everything I find even remotely useful, so right now I have 4 big stacks and I would like to pare that down. (tackle each stack by the end of March, June, September and December)

10. Realize that I physically will never be able to remember every single tidbit of information that is out there in the world and learn to read for pure enjoyment, not for the sake of trying to impress anyone. (end of April)

I think that is a good set of goals for the year. What are some of your goals for 2012?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Couscous with Shrimp and Corn

You ever have those days when you don't feel like going to store but are hungry for something warm and delicious? Today was one of those days. I have been sick for the past week or so, and I'm finally on the mend, but I still don't have the energy to go to the store.

Which meant I had to make something from whatever was in my fridge, pantry or freezer. I had a bunch of leftover couscous in the fridge, and I was craving some shrimp. I always love corn, so I decided to toss some thawed corn in. Personally, I love asian flavors, so I decided to add some ponzu (a citrus soy sauce) and some sesame oil. You always have to have garlic, so I added a minced clove. And Voila! A deliciously filling yet not energy zapping dish.

Thank goodness for frozen corn.

Couscous with Shrimp and Corn

Serves 1

1/2 c. prepared couscous
6 frozen shrimp
1/4 c. frozen corn
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp ponzu (or regular soy sauce)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 pinch cumin

1. Mix 1 tbsp ponzu with frozen corn and microwave for 15 sec. Stir in a spoonful of couscous and set aside.
2. Heat rest of ponzu, sesame oil, garlic and cumin in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are thawed. 
3. Mix couscous and corn. Microwave for 15 sec. Add shrimp and sauce and stir to combine.


You know what, I think I'm gonna go make another batch. YUM!


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Santa Train

Every year since 1969, there has been a Santa Train that runs from North Bend to Snoqualmie and back. This year was my first year volunteering during the Santa Train and boy was it a zoo! I had a blast hanging out with my mom and greeting all the chilled train riders with some hot cocoa (and warm cocoa for the kids!)

Some pictures from their website:

Doesn't the depot look so pretty with all those lights? 

That's the stove they were baking the cookies in and heating up water for cocoa. It's in an old army medical kitchen car that was never used until the army donated it to the museum. Now it's used regularly to make meals. And it's coal fed, which is pretty neat!

Those were just some of the cocoa cups we served. I swear we went through at least 300-400 cups!

I was standing for 8 hours, serving cocoa, dispensing cocoa, putting lids on cocoa cups, making cocoa, cleaning spilled cocoa, lifting heavy pots of cocoa, lifting huge thermoses of cocoa... but it was all lots of fun!

When I got home though, I felt like this:


Have a great day!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Misery is optional...

Chocolate Rum Balls!

Growing up, I remember always baking a ton of Christmas cookies with my mom and my grandma (Babi, which is short for babička, which means grandma in Czech). We would get together for weekends on end, making batch after batch of cookies. There are so many pictures of me putting sprinkles on the cookies, or cutting shapes out of the dough. 

But ever since my grandma moved out of her house after my grandpa passed, we haven't made any Czech cookies. A few years passed until last year, when me and my mom decided to try making them from recipes we found online. We had lost all of my grandma's recipes in the move (or so we thought. Turns out they were tucked safely way in, well, a safe), so we fiddled around and found some great recipes, and some not so great recipes. 

This year, after we found my grandma's recipes, we decided to try them out. Only problem was that most of the recipes were incomplete or the steps were out of order. My mom had tried to write them down in English what my grandma did exactly for each recipe, but unfortunately in the hustle and bustle of things, details were left out. We tried to fill them in and improvise as best as we could, and some turned out well.

The chocolate rum balls were just as I remember. Sweet, chocolatey, with a hazelnut in the middle. They were my favorite cookie, so when I pulled them out after letting them sit for a week, they brought back so many good memories of Christmas past. And now I would like to share them with you.

Chocolate Rum Balls (Bombicky, literally "bombs")

2 egg whites
1 tsp lemon and vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
4 tbsp Nestlé’s quik chocolate
1 tsp rum
2 c. walnuts, ground
1 ½ c. powdered sugar
Hazelnuts, whole

1. Mix together egg whites, sugar, walnuts, extracts, chocolate and rum.
2. Take a tsp of batter and place hazelnut in center. Roll in sugar, then place in a paper liner. Let sit for few days in a cool room in a tin.



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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

Ugly Christmas sweater parties seem to be all the rage lately. To tell you the truth, I had never been to one before last Saturday. It was actually a lot of fun to see what people were wearing!

Crystal, Laura, me, Robin, Nancy and Cady
As you can see, some decided to not dress the part (cough, Laura, cough, Vanessa), but for the most part we all picked some interesting sweaters!

Crystal, Cady, Vanessa, me, Robin and Nancy

I decided to borrow one from my mom, but when I asked her if I could, I neglected to mention what it was for. I kept the rouse going for a while, until the night before she asked me flat out if it was for an ugly sweater party. I told her that I didn't want to hurt her feeling since I know she loves the sweater that I picked.

Her words to me were as follows: "Oh that sweater, oh I hate that sweater. I only wear it because the kids at school like it."

And here I was trying to protect her feelings, when she actually didn't like it in the first place! Ha! (And I think I had a matching mini sweater when I was little that we got as gifts from my aunt.. ahh the 90s!)

Our food table!

Back to the party. We each brought food or some thing to drink and we pigged out! After eating and laughing, we decided to open our white elephant gifts. The gifts ranged from a candle, to a Christmas cupcake decorating kit, to a picture frame, to a scarf and earrings, to a cute kitty tea set, to.. right now I can't remember the two other gifts, but I'm sure I will remember soon! They were all wonderful and thoughtful!

Our gift table!

We listened to Christmas music and laughed and had lots of fun! This weekend we are going to see the Zoo Lights at Point Defiance and having a sweets swap. I'm excited for both of them!

Me opening the first gift!

Have a great day!


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